Sunday, February 28, 2010

How NOT to be a prude virgin

Virgins are often stereotyped as prude, ashamed of their bodies and shy. Most of the world (virgins included) think one needs to have sex in order to have a sexuality. However, a woman can celebrate her womanhood in healthy ways, even if she's a virgin.

I know the idea of a virgin who loves her body and has a sexuality might not make sense. For instance, in Latino culture, there is the idea that a woman can either be a "Madonna" (virgin) or a "whore." There is no in-between. You are either pure or slutty. This Madonna/whore dichotomy I think exists in many cultures, though perhaps it is most pronounced in Latino culture.

Anyway, now when I tell people I'm a virgin, they are shocked. Perhaps it's because I'm so old to still be a virgin, but I'd like to think it's because I'm not a total prude. ;-) Based on my experience (and also including advice from my friends), here are ways I've found a virgin woman can still have a sexuality.

1) Join a bellydance class- Contrary to popular belief, bellydance is not inherently exotic stripperdance. It's a safe, fun way to move your body in a manner that is very natural to women. The sisterhood that permeates bellydance classes is also infectious.

2) Buy sexy, matching underwear- Wearing sexy underwear makes you feel sexier. Even if no one will see it but you, it is cool to see your body in a sexy panty and bra set. It also helps one feel sexier when buried under layers of sweaters during winter.

3) Go to a "Surprise Party" once- Surprise Parties (and the like) are basically grown up "tupperware" parties. I was slightly uncomfortable at first, but in the end, I found it to be quite educational. Also, the party was not promoting promiscuous sexual behavior. The emphasis was on enhancing the romance in your relationship. It's a fun girls night out.

4) Have a makeover party-If going to a sex toy party is too much (or too "sinful") for you, a tamer girls night out/girls day would be painting your nails with your girlfriends. It taps into your inner five year old, playing dress-up, making yourself even prettier.

5) Take a burlesque class or pole dancing class-OK, a bit ago, I indirectly criticized stripping by saying that bellydance is not exotic stripperdance. However, on a trip to Montreal, I happened upon an outdoor burlesque lesson at a street fest. FYI, the teacher did not strip down all the way during the lesson! Once again though, it's just plain fun! It's about being flirty and emphasizing/celebrating your best assets, so to speak. I am determined to take a burlesque workshop. You don't strip all the way in burlesque classes, by the way. Also, similar to bellydance, pole dancing provides a workout that includes womanly moves. You can get in shape without making your body "manly," meaning too much muscle and not enough curves.

6) Show off when you go out- Great calves? Wear a skirt that shows them off. Beautiful eyes? Find a complimentary eyeshadow color to draw attention to them. Got a nice pair of girls? Wear a v-neck. I used to be afraid of showing any part of my chest, until my mom once said from outside the dressing room, "You can't help what God gave you!" I was 17 at the time, and it changed how I shopped for clothes. If you can't hide it, might as well embellish it.

7) See the "Vagina Monologues"-Yes, some of the women in the monologues didn't feel sexy until someone had sex with them, but overall, the message is about loving your body, loving your self, and not being ashamed of your vagina/sexuality. Plus, proceeds from the monologues always benefit a good cause related to helping abused and oppressed women.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will all the virgins please stand up?

Virgins over the age of 22 that is.

Being childfree makes dating difficult. Being a virgin adds even more difficulty to this. Perhaps if I was sexually active, I'd be more flirty and outgoing because I'd be also looking for some physical loving too. That would motivate me to be more active and extroverted in my dating.

Also, nobody wants to date (and therefore, have sex with) a virgin, at least not anybody past high school age. In my lowest moments, I wondered if I should just lose the virginity already and make myself more marketable, as it were. But those moments, thankfully, are brief, and I realize how dumb that sounds. Just eff anybody for the hell of it? What?

Anyway, I'm on a childfree dating website and a "virgins only" dating site. On both sites, there are hardly any men available in my state (in the age range I selected). On the virgin site, two men. On the childfree site, about half a dozen. This is ridiculous. How in the world can I meet someone? Am I really so hard to match?

The glimmer of light is one of the two virgin guys in my state messaged me, in December. I couldn't respond because I wasn't a premium member, and the site's membership upgrade page wasn't working in December. So I couldn't even open the message until tonight. I discovered that the upgrade option works now, so signed up for 3 months. I give the dating sites (that cost money) 3 months to find me someone. Apparently, he doesn't want kids either. Wha? And he's in his late 20's. A self-proclaimed virgin who doesn't want kids? Seriously? He's not the cutest young man. He has an awful outfit in his profile pic. Some tweed jacket that's too big for him and a 40's style hat, like he's trying to be "vintage." But I'm willing to at least talk to him. I don't know if he'll respond. I can't say I would respond to someone who took 2 months to respond to me. But we'll see.

If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. However, I am eager to practice my flirting skills with someone, especially after watching some Jane Austen-style flirting on "Pride and Prejudice."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"When In Rome" review

Once again, I was single on Valentine's Day. It's usually the one time of year I really want a boyfriend. My inner, bitter single girl would come out and I would flash dirty looks at the happy couples as they walked by...well, their backs were turned, but still. The past couple years, however, I wasn't so bitter. I spent the day with good friends of mine both years. This year, my best friend and I did what single ladies probably should not do on Valentine's Day: we saw "When In Rome," a rom com.

Usually I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. Yes they are predictable, yes they always seem to have a happy ending, yes some lines are cheesey, cliche even, but I like them anyway. However, now that I've actively tried to date and have been learning dating do's and don'ts, learning about how young men operate when dating someone, somehow, this romantic comedy just didn't please me. It was too cheesey, celebrating the pathetic and nonexistent. Case in point, Elizabeth (the main character) has a younger sister, who marries a guy she met on a plane after two weeks of knowing each other. The younger sister spouts the usual "he's the one, I'm just so happy with him," lines. Call me cynical, but I believe love at first sight is extremely rare, especially because during the first two weeks of dating someone, those euphoric feelings are typical. The novelty of a new person hasn't worn off yet. You're still getting to know each other then. How can anyone decide to marry someone after two weeks? That's attraction, infatuation, lust, not love!

Actually, "When In Rome," pretty much is all about love at first sight. But man, it's so easy to confuse that initial excitement with love. That's all it is, excitment, a feeling, fleeting, yet in this movie, people are making life decisions during that stage of dating. I just couldn't get into it. Maybe before I started dating more seriously, I'd take the movie less seriously and really enjoy the nice light romp. All I really enjoyed about the movie was Anjelica Huston (one of my favorite actresses who had a cameo) and Jon Heder (Napoleon from "Napoleon Dynamite"). It's amazing how Huston can take a stock character, the mean female boss, and make her cool, give her that Huston flair. How does she do it?

If you haven't seen the movie, don't. Not worth ten-ish dollars. My friend really enjoyed it, but she has a high tolerance for cheesiness (higher than me, anyway). The acting is mediocre, the ending dance number is corny, and it calls attraction "love." Some moments were funny and a couple lines were wise, but the little glimmers of light just weren't enough.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

the dance of dating

Yesterday, I met my resolution's goal for February and didn't even realize it until afterward.

In the spirit of doing what I love, a female friend and I went to a free dance lesson in my city. It was honky tonk, so we thought it was line dancing, but it was actually partner dancing. Oops. We came without guys and we haven't known each other long enough to be comfortable dancing together. :-P Honky tonk isn't our favorite type of music and I had enough country music when I lived in the south! However, I like dancing and am always up for a free dance lesson, even if it's honky tonk two step. The lesson was followed by a couple hours of dancing, accompanied by a live honky tonk band.

Well, after the lesson, both she and I were asked to dance several times by different men. It sure was nice to be drawn from wallflower-dom! I'm not feminist enough to ask a strange man to dance. That's when traditional gender roles kick in with me. I like being asked to dance though, a man taking my hand to the floor and then taking me by the hand back to my seat.

It occurred to me that dancing with strangers is not dissimilar to dating. If only women thought of dating as a "dance" rather than hunting for a spouse! We wouldn't go so nuts when the date doesn't call us back. Dancing is a microcosm of dating. You spend a little time with a man, and then try out another one. You expect that you might not see them again after that night, but it was fun in the meantime. Some men are good dancers, some are not so good, but you roll with it, and there's no need to see the bad dancers again. It's all about getting out there and having fun.

So now I have another activity to add to my list of ways to meet more guys: free dance lessons. Maybe I should try going alone one day. I'd rather go to a dance lesson alone than a singles event.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Body Image, Self Esteem and Virginity

One stereotype I've heard about virgins is that virgins are virgins because we don't think we're attractive or "eff"-able (to put it politely). Well, I don't think that my body is hideous, but I pondered this as I read a friend of mine's blog. She talked a little about how she struggled with self-body-hate. Upon becoming sexually active, though, her insecurities about one particular part of her body were gone. It took sex for her to get over (or at least begin getting over) hating her body. Whoa. An extreme solution to a solve-able problem, I think! Although, I guess some wouldn't think sex is such an extreme solution. Rather, some might argue that's the natural, normal solution to low body image.

Then why have I met so many sexually active women who are still insecure about their bodies? Who freak out at the thought of baring their belly to strangers (which I've done as a bellydancer)? Who are shy about trying on a corset at a female-only party? If you have low self esteem before sex, you'll probably have low self esteem after it too, apparently. I think your perception of your beauty, your love for your body, should come from within and not be based on whether or not others want to have sex with you. But I guess that's yet another reason why I'm (still) a virgin. I don't need a guy to fondle me to feel sexy or beautiful.

I tried to find some studies which researched self esteem (or body image) and virginity. Now that I'm no longer a student, access to scholarly articles is difficult. I only found two studies. However, both yielded results which question the idea that virgins have low self esteem or hate their bodies. This excerpt suggested that there was no significant difference in the level of self esteem between sexually active adolescent girls and non sexually active girls. This study, however, basically said the lower the self esteem of younger teenage girls, the more likely they were to become sexually active early. So girls with higher self esteem initiated intercourse later.

By the way, it was the opposite with boys. High self esteem in boys led to earlier initiation of coitus. Perhaps this view of virgins as having low self esteem is based on the male experience, then? Once again, female experience is based on the male experience, but I'll leave that rant to another feminist who can speak to that more precisely than me.

Anyway, contradictory results? Maybe, but based on these two results, I conclude that virgin females, particularly older ones, have either the same amount of self esteem or more compared to the mean self esteem of their nonvirgin peers. So no, we don't think lower of ourselves than the nonvirgins think of themselves. There is more than one reason why virgins remain virgins. Sure, some hate their bodies or don't think their preferred sex will find them sexy. Some just never had the chance. Some are virgins for religious reasons. Some just have a low sex drive. Some are fearful of STD's or pregnancy. Some already feel attractive and don't need external affirmation. Some already have enough body "fun" without the assistance of a partner.

Once again, I'm glad to be in the place I'm in regarding my self esteem and body image. I'm happy I love my body. I don't always like it, and I know it's imperfect, but I love it.

Spoke too soon


Previously, I said that I was glad that Steven hadn't called me back, that the disinterest was mutual. Well, see, I gave him my "online dating" email address. I use that address for all my correspondence with online dates and don't check it daily (sometimes just once a week). The other day, I discovered that he had emailed me a few times in the past week. It was mostly interesting or funny things he found online which he thought I would like as well. However, he also asked about hanging out again.

Ugh. I had to go through this in college. I suspected a friend was attracted to me, but I wanted to be friends only. So I treated him more coldly than my other friends so that he wouldn't think I liked him. It didn't work, by the way, and after two months, I told him directly that I wanted to remain friends.

It really isn't my nature to be cold and distant (despite my introversion). I really am a friendly person. So now, I'll be checking myself, making sure I do nothing that can misinterpreted as flirting: control the laughter, avoid body contact, A-hugs, withold compliments, block smiles, cross arms and legs (close the body language, in other words). I have to force myself to be less friendly. He's a nice guy, and I don't want to just blow him off or say, "I don't want to hang out with you because I don't have a crush on you." How rude! Hopefully, he just wants to stay friends too and I'm overreacting. After all, email is so impersonal, especially after we've already exchanged numbers. If he was smitten, he'd call, wouldn't he?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Do what's best for you-part two

There actually wasn't going to be a part two, but events today further confirmed this new mantra of mine.

Since Nate, there has been no man who's piqued my interest. I went on a date with Steven in January, and though the date was not bad, there was mutual disinterest, thankfully.

As usual, I started to get fatalistic again, as in "Well, I guess there is no guy for me after all. I should just give up this fruitless endeavor and go on with my single life." I was starting to feel silly for even trying to date. I'm a perpetually single virgin in my mid-twenties after all. How good are my chances of getting a boyfriend, really?

Today I was reminded of the phrase, "there're other fish in the sea." I'm altering my resolution somewhat. I said I'd go on one new date or to one new singles event every month. However, although I enjoyed Speed Dating, singles mixers at bars don't appeal to me (though I've bookmarked some such meetups). I decided that if I want to meet an intellectual sort (who therefore will be more likely to be childfree), I need another strategy for meeting such a guy. I thought about taking a class, but the problem is most classes I'd be interested in taking lack men. So I decided to do something I always wanted to do anyway: join a book club. Dorky? Yes. But even if I don't find a date or boyfriend, at least I'll be doing something I enjoy. If I want to be articulate and charming, I should do things that put me in non-threatening, unintimidating situations.

Well actually, there was a cute, ph.D student in the book club, "Mark." :-) I didn't talk one-on-one with him. Shame on me! Another missed flirting opportunity. But I was in a comfortable setting and did contribute funny and interesting tidbits to the conversation. Made him laugh a couple times, which is always good for building rapport. Will I go after this guy? I don't know. I don't even know if he's single. However, it woke up my inner dater. How silly of me to give up so quickly! Of course there are other men out there. Of course I haven't exhausted all eligible bachelors.

Needless to say, I will be returning to the book club in two weeks, for two reasons. ;-) Even if we're never more than acquaintances, Mark has inspired me to keep trying.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do what's best for you

I recently had a facebook conversation with someone regarding introversion. Her status update asked, "What is your life story telling you about yourself?" I answered, "That I need to embrace my introversion." She responded with, "Don't let it rule you." The statement bugged me, because that's exactly what I need to do.

For the record, I am not a hermit. My job involves working with people directly. I take dance class and am part of a discussion group on the weekends. Also, I see at least one of my closest friends once a month. On top of that, I have three people I attend Mass with on Sundays. So I'm an introvert with good social skills. ;-)

However, I have recently seen the light. Over and over again, society devalues introverts. We are told to "be more outgoing," "get out of our shells," "talk more." In other words, introversion is seen as a negative that needs to be remedied. How often are extroverts told to "be less outgoing," "go into your shell," or "talk less?" Although I agree socializing is beneficial to the soul (humans are social creatures after all), I disagree that wanting to crawl in a shell necessarily means one is anti-social. On top of that, solo activities, such as reading a book, painting, journaling or taking a bath, are seen as "doing nothing." Those are unnecessary luxuries. Bathing I suppose is a necessity, but bathing just for the sake of relaxing might be seen as a luxury. In America, we "live to work," not "work to live," after all.

The Shy Single taught me a valuable lesson though, especially in terms of dating. One of the messages of the book was to put oneself in dating situations where one is at one's best. So if you bumble and fumble at "Single's Events," where it's you and a bunch of strangers, don't do that. If you're intimidated at fancy restaurants, don't take your date there. Figure out in which situations you are most comfortable, and seek out those. Although going out my comfort zone sometimes improved me, at other times, it put me in awkward, uncomfortable situations. The only lesson learned in those cases was, "Don't do that again."

I like first dates to be at cute, independent coffee shops followed by a walk in the park (weather permitting). So I've gone on most dates at the same cafe. I don't like eating on first dates and I don't like meeting at night, so I try to avoid both those. Tea and a walk in the park suit me fine. I'm most comfortable (and therefore most charming) on such dates.

So although my friend/mentor meant well, she didn't realize the inherent bias in her statement. I will no longer fight who I am nor will I be ashamed of it. Sometimes I prefer solitude to people, and it's nothing that needs to be fixed. There is nothing wrong with nightly "me time."